The first thing we should get straight is this: Steve Toney is a taper, not a bootlegger. The 53-year-old from Greensburg, whose day job is in nuclear energy at Westinghouse, likes recording concerts for posterity, but he's not hiding microphones under his jacket and down his pants.
"There's always been the sanctioned and unsanctioned recording," Toney explains. "We like to differentiate ourselves. ‘Bootlegs' are illegal, it implies ‘undercover.'"
He recalls that in the ‘90s, bootlegging was still most people's assumption when they thought of someone not associated with a band going to a concert and recording it. But more recently, legal, above-the-table taping has become commonplace, especially in the jam-band set.
Toney says he goes to 40 to 50 shows per year, and usually about three big music festivals. (He has, for example, recordings from All Good Festival in West Virginia and the Flood City Music Festival in Johnstown this year.) He records bands he knows to be "taper-friendly," and posts the sets on the Live Music Archive, a section of the Internet Archive at www.archive.org. The site allows users to post only recordings of bands that have given the site administrators permission.
Toney uses Schoeps microphones, a pre-amp and a digital recorder to tape bands; he says he's put several thousand dollars into his hobby since he got into it in the ‘90s while living in Michigan.
His most downloaded set ever?
"I've got one show that's got 27,000 or so. It was Citizen Cope in 2004; he was playing at a Borders, just him and a guitar. I just showed up and started recording. For some reason that's my most popular."
Toney, one of a handful of active local tapers, says he simply gets enjoyment out of recording -- it's a way to keep alive a musical moment that might otherwise be lost to time. And recording and posting lesser-known bands might help their careers.
"I probably have 200 bands I'm a fan of that I would never have heard of otherwise. How did people first hear about Rubblebucket? Probably from a recording. If I can get people to come out and see these bands, I'm happy."